By Michael Grace-Dacosta
Ever since his junior year of high school, Aaron Best had always kept Ryerson as a potential option for where he wanted to play college basketball — even before coach Roy Rana spoke with him. For Best, choosing a team was about more than prestige: He wanted familiarity and to go somewhere that would give him a chance to make a difference.
“[At] Ryerson I had the chance to contribute and… change the culture of what Ryerson basketball is, “Best says. “I wanted to be a part of something big like that.”
Best got the number nine ranking for high school prospects by North Pole Hoops and MVP honours in his senior year at Eastern Commerce Collegiate — the same school his current coach Rana used to coach at. The high ranking gave him a lot of praise but also a lot of pressure, since every game was like playing for his career.
“You feel like you’re always on edge,” Kevin Jeffers, Best’s high school coach, says. “You feel like every shot is for [your] scholarship.”
Best received attention from various NCAA and CIS schools — coaches from the universities of Windsor, Waterloo, Pennsylvania, Eastern Kentucky and Ryerson all came knocking on his door. For three months, Best had campus visits and coach meetings but he says he was surprisingly calm about it and never let the pressure of deciding on a school get to him.
“I had my mom with me, so I was pretty relaxed through the whole process,” Best says. “She just wanted me to go where I’d be happy.”
Since Best did have the option to go to an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, he had considered moving to the United States. But he says that it would have taken the perfect situation for him to move there and he wasn’t able to find that, whereas at Ryerson, he knew he could be happy.
“I had a relationship with the coach and I had a relationship with the players on the team, before I even came,” Best says. “It was an easy decision for me.”
For a lot of his friends and family, Best says his decision to go to Ryerson came as a huge surprise. He says he was able to see the potential of Ryerson basketball and the Mattamy Athletic Centre, but it took them some time to understand.
“If you look around, we probably have one of the best facilities in the country at the university level,” Best says. “It was pretty tough for them to see at the time, but now it’s pretty obvious as to why [I came to Ryerson].”
While Best had to miss a third of his first season due to injury, he led the Rams in scoring in the playoffs during their run to nationals and made the OUA Rookie All-Star team.
Now as a second-year business management student, the shooting guard averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game and made the OUA All-Star first team this season.
“I remember my high school coach telling me that ‘if you’re going to go somewhere, make sure it’s a good situation for you,’” Best says. “I found a good situation and I’m here.”
Best says that when he thinks about it, he honestly can’t imagine playing for any other team, so he has no regrets in choosing the Rams.